David C. Nott, President, Institute for Humane Studies
"Very Few Men Have Done More"
Dr. Buchanan has been honored by far more prestigious folks, and in a way that I could never match, so instead I offer a testimonial to the impact that his work has had on me personally and on the Institute for Humane Studies. His ideas serve as a filter for how I approach my day-to-day work, informing the way I look at societyís institutions. And his work serves as the basis for an important part of what is taught at IHS seminars and by extension in the classes of the many Institute alumni teaching around the country.
Any discussion of Dr. Buchanan has to begin with the impact of his revolutionary way of applying economic insights to institutional decision-making. At seminars of the Institute for Humane Studies, we convey a basic, introductory framework, but the reactions from our students to the ideas of public choice are remarkable.
Year after year, our surveys of students show that one of the key new ideas they take away from our seminars is an understanding of the incentives and decision calculus that people face in the political arena. One college newspaper editor even wrote to us after a seminar, "Our editorial board took up the question of subsidies for Amtrak. Before your seminar, I would have thought, 'trains are good,' but now I analyze what political interest groups are benefiting." The public choice framework is indeed powerful.
Dr. Buchananís work serves as the basis for much of what we teach students across the country. For his academic contributions alone we would be immensely in his debt. But he has given generously of his time and wisdom as well, and my colleagues and I here at IHS have reaped tremendous benefits as a result. Dr. Buchanan continues to serve on the review committee of the Institute's Humane Studies Fellowship program, which awards nearly half a million dollars in scholarships each year to bright students around the country interested in classical liberal ideas. In a tribute to Jimís personal commitment, Walter Grinder relayed to me that after the student applications are sent to the committee, Jim Buchanan is always the first to return his evaluations, reproving the adage that "if you want something done, ask a busy person."
Dr. Buchanan has been a good friend of the Institute for Humane Studies for decades. The occasion of his 80th birthday has caused me to reflect back on his long and generous association with the Institute, in correspondence and notes from the past four decades that paint a rich and storied history.
IHS Distinguished Senior Scholar Leonard Liggio recalled to me the impact that Dr. Buchananís ideas had on him at a conference in 1959, ideas which influenced his contributions as a member of the original committee to form IHS nearly forty years ago. This early connection to IHS is further fleshed out in early correspondence between Dr. Buchanan and the Institute in the 1960s, highlighting Ben Rogge from Wabash College and IHS founder F. A. "Baldy" Harper, sharing their intellectual journeys and poring over Dr. Buchananís writings.
From the closing years of the 1960s and through the 1970s, there was clearly an era of tumult. Dr. Buchanan took a principled stand and resigned his post from UCLA after the administration tolerated campus violence. I admire very much that he always stands on principle.
Looking back on the Instituteís correspondence of the time I find Dr. Buchanan and George Pearson discussing in a series of letters how much honoraria would be saved if their conference were held at the desirable Homestead site rather than Blacksburg. From the beginnings of the Institute, he helped us think through both the effectiveness of our organization and the incentives of the academy.
Other pieces of advice were given to Ken Templeton and Lou Spadaro of IHS, and Ed Crane of Cato. And as IHS sought to build the discipline of Austrian economics through conferences, Dr. Buchanan, always a fellow traveler, mightily supported these efforts with his commitment to the concept of subjective economic value. He was a key mover both in the Instituteís efforts and in the rebirth of crucial insights in economics about preferences, incentives, and constraints.
We are fortunate to have shared in the fruition of Dr. Buchananís work in the 1980s. The director of the Center for Study of Public Choice, Bob Tollison, formally shared the good news with IHS that Dr. Buchanan had won the Nobel Prize. And at the invitation of IHS President John Blundell, Dr. Buchanan was kind enough to address the Instituteís 25th anniversary dinner celebration, and his remarks were printed in the Wall Street Journal and the Orange County Register.
In the 1990s the Institute for Humane Studies has continued its work with hundreds of top students from around the world every year. Even with his many deserved accolades and accomplishments, Jim Buchanan continues to help these students and share in our work. He gives of his time to lecture to our graduate students intent on academic careers. IHS Summer Fellow Mark Pennington, whose dissertation work involved a public choice analysis of land use regulations, noted that an important part of his summer here was the opportunity to interact with Dr. Buchanan. (Now Dr. Pennington, Mark has a tenure-track appointment at the University of London).
Dr. James M. Buchanan's commitment to classical liberal ideas (or "right-liberal" as he argued in the 1970s) runs throughout his life and work. He is simultaneously a giant and a friend, a creative genius and a humble colleague. On behalf of the Institute for Humane Studies, I thank him and recognize his labor for liberty. Very few men have done more.